Nate Oats' reaction after Alabama basketball loss at No. 3 Kentucky: 'Our effort wasn't there'

Nick Kelly
The Tuscaloosa News

The disappointment from Alabama basketball coach Nate Oats was easy to sense from the moment he started talking in the news conference.

Despite a career performance from Keon Ellis, the Crimson Tide still lost to No. 3 Kentucky 90-81 at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky. 

"We wasted a good shooting night from (Jaden Shackelford) and Keon," Oats said.

Ellis finished with 28 points as he went 7-for-11 from 3-point range. Shackelford tallied 18 points and hit five 3-pointers. 

Alabama doesn't necessarily need each player on its roster to hit those numbers. That would be a big ask. What disappointed Oats was that the effort from others didn't match that of Alabama's two starters, particularly on the defensive end. 

“We didn’t play hard enough on the ball," Oats said. "We just didn’t play hard enough to win a tough road game. We had a good chance to win it with (Kentucky guards Savhir) Wheeler and (TyTy) Washington out. We wasted a good opportunity." 

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It would be one thing if Kentucky (22-5, 11-3 SEC) just outlasted Alabama (17-10, 7-7) in a tightly fought game to the end. But Oats didn't quite see it that way. 

"Disappointing to lose games when I feel like our effort wasn’t where it needed to be to win a road game," he said. "Tough loss. Guys have got to figure out how hard they need to play to win these road games." 

"Wasted opportunity" and "not playing hard enough" were the two biggest themes in Oats' postgame messaging. This isn't the first time. There have been games where Alabama hasn't been able to close (at Mississippi State, for example) where Oats expressed a similar sentiment about toughness. 

"For whatever reason this year, we haven’t been able to get them to give us the effort we need to win big games every time out," Oats said. "We’ve lost multiple games because of an effort deal, which is frustrating as a coach. What do I need to do better to get the messaging through to them? How do we motivate them better to play hard? Some of its personal pride, too." 

The issue for Oats: His players need to get to a point where they aren't beaten one-on-one because the guy across from them works harder. Oats has seen Crimson Tide players who have an advantage in pure talent get outworked and ultimately beat. 

That wasn't as much the case against a team like Kentucky. The Wildcats have a roster filled with top-notch players. Oscar Tshiebwe, who had 21 points and 14 rebounds  against Alabama, leads that group. 

But getting beat by lesser talent that works harder has been an issue against teams such as Georgia and Missouri. 

"It’s very frustrating to watch," Oats said. "It’s not a recipe for winning on a consistent basis. That’s why I think we’ve seen the ups and downs that we have this year." 

Contact Alabama reporter Nick Kelly: Follow him on Twitter: @_NickKelly.